February 26, 2011

A weekend drinking poem

The thirsty earth soaks up the rain,
And drinks and gapes for drink again ;
The plants suck in the earth, and are
With constant drinking fresh and fair ;
The sea itself (which one would think
Should have but little need of drink)
Drinks ten thousand rivers up,
So filled that they o’erflow the cup.
The busy Sun (and one would guess
By’s drunken fiery face no less)
Drinks up the sea, and when he’s done,
The Moon and Stars drink up the Sun :
They drink and dance by their own light,
They drink and revel all the night :
Nothing in Nature’s sober found,
But an eternal health goes round.
Fill up the bowl, then, fill it high,
Fill all the glasses there—for why
Should every creature drink but I ?
Why, man of morals, tell me why ?--Abraham Cowley, 1618-1667

February 25, 2011

Shoddy gods

By way of wikipedia, The Worship of Mammon, 1909, by Evelyn De Morgan.

Lots of people take up blogging in order to rant. For the most part, I didn't and generally try to keep Goat Rope relatively rant-free or at least keep the impulse under control.

Ordinarily, I go for a fairly serene tone here, with reflections on some ethereal topic followed by links and comments about current events. I'd prefer to be blogging about Beowulf now. However, I feel the need to rant today.

It occurs to me that of all the causes to which people have thrown their lives away or surrendered their ideals, integrity and _____ (fill in the appropriate body parts), the most pathetic is to utterly surrender one's human autonomy to the service of plutocracy and grovel at the feet of it. I'm sure it's a good gig for those who can take it, but it is one utterly devoid of honor.

Of course, people need economic resources to survive and thrive. That's what the fight is about. And in pursuing those things, we all have to do things we'd rather not. But here as elsewhere there is a line that sometimes gets crossed.

I can understand the appeal of many of the lesser gods humans have served, whether these are viewed as mere symbolic personifications or real persons. Aphrodite, Ares, Artemis, Hermes, Isis, and even violent ones like Kali and Tlaloc may have their limited place in the scheme of things. But surely Mammon is the shoddiest idol of all.

I have much more sympathy for those who sin in the service of some love or passion for an individual, a group or an ideal than those who choose greed for the filthy lucre or servility to those who command it.

(Regarding the applications of the above rant, which are Legion, as Bob Marley sang, "Who the cap fit, let them wear it.")

KOCHED RED HANDED. Here's more on the Koch crank call to Wisconsin's governor about billionaire backed union busting.

AND, WHILE WE'RE AT IT, a friend pointed out to me today that the aforementioned Wisconsin governor in his conversation with an imagined Koch didn't really talk about the state budget. Wasn't that what all this was supposed to be about? But, as Paul Krugman argues, in reality it's a classic case of applying what Naomi Klein called the shock doctrine.

A MODEST PROPOSAL. Here's an idea for West Virginia: set aside a portion of severance tax revenues to create a trust fund that could be used to promote job creation once extractive industries decline.

HOWEVER, rather than bold endeavours, it looks like the WV legislature is scaling back legislation to regulate the Marcellus Shale gas boom.

A LITTLE GOOD NEWS. The West Virginia CHIP (Children's Health Insurance) board voted yesterday to raise eligibility for the program to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Previously, benefits were capped at 250 percent. As I understand it, this will cover around an additional 800+ children when fully implemented, although the news article linked above uses a slightly lower figure.

A LITTLE NOT SO AWFUL NEWS. Jobless claims dropped more than expected last week.


February 24, 2011

That little monster problem

I've been on an on again/off again Beowulf jag here lately, although there are also links and comments about current events. Click on earlier posts if you like this kind of thing (although the last few days have been all about the labor protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere).

When Beowulf arrives in the land of the Danes with 14 warrior buddies on a quest for monster-killing glory, he is met by a coast-guard whose duty it is to check him out. This requires a bit of diplomacy on his part. It would not do, for example, for him to say

"I'm here to kill that monster you guys are too pansy to handle."


"I thought Denmark could use someone who wasn't a total candy ass to take care of your Grendel problem."

After all, having a man-eating monster you can't get rid of is a bit of a tender subject for a warrior king. (OK, so the pun was intended.)

Beowulf instead assures the guard of his good intentions and desire to help, saying,

So tell us if what we have heard is true
about this threat, whatever it is,
this danger abroad in the dark nights,
this corpse-maker mongering death
in the Shieldings' country. I come to proffer
my wholehearted help and counsel
I can show the wise Hrothgar a way
to defeat his enemy and find respite--
if any respite is to reach him, ever.
I can calm the turmoil and terror in his mind.
Otherwise, he must endure woes
and live with grief for as long as his hall
stands at the horizon, on its high ground.

That's good enough for the guard, who agrees to take the band to Hrothgar. It seems that even monster slaying requires diplomacy.

WHILE UNION SUPPORTERS STRUGGLE, President Obama is keeping a low profile. Meanwhile, back in Wisconsin, a crank Koch call to the governor has made some headlines.

THE LATEST BAD IDEA: turning Medicaid into a block grant program.


A LITTLE WV NEWS. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin is calling for raising eligibility for the Children's Health Insurance Program from 250 to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

NOTE TO SELF: in event of an attempt to shoplift a chainsaw, don't attempt to conceal it in pants.


February 23, 2011

Next stop...Ohio?

Yesterday, close to 100 people jammed into a legislative committee room in Charleston WV to make a statement in support of workers in Wisconsin protesting against a union busting effort led by governor Scott Walker. Quite a few legislators attended, in addition to several dozen union supporters.

(By the way, you can follow a good chunk of the money behind the right wing jihad in Wisconsin and elsewhere to the Koch brothers.)

Now, it looks like another protest is building in Ohio, where a similar measure is being considered, and in Indiana, where "right to work (for less)" legislation is getting some play.

Clearly, the billionaire funded right wants to kill the labor movement, but union members don't seem to be going gently into that good night. I hope instead of an easy victory the enemies of labor stir up a hornet's nest.


WONDER WHY? There are more hate groups in the US than ever before, according to a new study.



February 22, 2011

Union busting

The struggle in Wisconsin by union workers and their supporters continues to draw national attention. It is likely to be the first of several state-level struggles to defend workers rights. It's too soon to see what effects this may have but at least the workers there have decided not to go down quietly. Solidarity events are taking place today in many places, including West Virginia.

In the words of Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, what's happening there is a case of "pure, unadulterated union-busting."

It is likely, alas, to be an interesting year.

(Goat Rope's ongoing series on Beowulf should resume tomorrow.)

THE COSTS OF COAL are the subject of a new study, as Ken Ward reports in Coal Tattoo.

ASHES, MOLES, FORTRESSES AND SUCH are discussed in the latest edition of the Rev. Jim Lewis' Notes from under the Fig Tree.

ALICE! Cooper, that is.


February 21, 2011

Waking a sleeping giant?

A friend emailed me this picture over the weekend. I have no idea of its origin or whether it is what it seems to be but I can't resist posting it here. I've been following events in Wisconsin with a great deal of interest. And, if the picture is any indication, I'm not the only one.

It's too soon to tell whether this is a blip on the screen or flash in the pan (depending on whether you prefer digital or analog metaphors), but the right wing express and its billionaire backers might have awakened a sleeping giant. I hope so anyway. For what it's worth, I'm joining some friends tomorrow in WV to show support and would encourage you to do whatever you can.

WHY? As Paul Krugman put it today,

anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side.


REFRAME THE DEBATE. Here's are some suggestions from George Lakoff.